Working on a dream: Exeter (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

7 February 2009

Grimsby Town 2 Exeter City 2

What's all the fuss about? A lovely sunny day: no wind to chase the non-existent clouds away. Will the Grecian gaggle get their kicks down Harrington Street?

Town lined up in the 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Heywood, Widdowson, Jarman, Kalalalalala, Sinclair, Elliott, Proudlock and Forbes. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, Boshell, Peterbore and Heggggarty. Heywood's name was greeted by an audible silence, which is the best one can hope for these days. Hope? Hope has just left the building: there are his footprints right there. Forbes is small and jaunty like a jack-in- the-box; you know whenever he's knocked he's gonna bounce up and down on his spring. That's his thing.

The Iscatorians were a mixed bunch of small and tall, some things old, some things new, some things borrowed and they played in blue. Who wouldn't want to walk like Emmanuel Panther? I don't want to be rich, don't want to be famous, but I'd really love to have the same name as you. But not you, the Honourable Troy Archibald-Henville (Bart). He ain't no seven stone weakling; their Troy boy was a huge loper with extendable legs for the hard of hearing.

And in today's episode of "What about the orange?" Exeter's keeper blushed like a carrot. Who needs floodlights?

So we have a rubbish referee and a rubbish linesman. What's new down in the dungeon? Hey, let's put on a show right here! A-one, two, one-two-three-four...

First half
Exeter kicked off towards the Osmond stand and Town watched them tip it and tap it, tap it and tip it. Well, they must be tired after that journey - it's only fair to let 'em stretch their legs before we mow them down.

Town watched; we watched Town watching.

Ooh, Forbes spun and deliciously weighted a pass down the centre-left. Proudlock boombled away, barged aside a tumbling Grecian urn and slapped the ball into the upper reaches, some say echelons, of the Pontoon. A conversation was disturbed.

Forbes darted and dashed, spun and flung himself at everything. He's the only Town player moving. Elliott's in a wheelchair with Clarke pushing and Exeter dominant. Hmm, they have three at the back: Mary, Mungo and Midge. Hmmm, they're swarming all over the misfiring midfield.

They pass, they pass, they pass. I've seen this somewhere before... it's Toblerone football from the 1990s.

After eight or so minutes Town cleared clumpily and bumped and barged grumpily. Proudlock shot wittily against a blue boot. This is akin to football, this is a corner. Half cleared and steered to Jarman, 30 yards out, who knocked the ball forward and a blue arm parried the ball towards the dug-outs. Jarman chased, dived and the Exetorian fell over the inviting leg. While Town whined and dined on a miscarriage of justice Stewart sprinted to the far side of the pitch and a blue man clumped the ball crossfield into the uninhabited flatlands. Stewart controlled and swayed infield in a single movement, espied Barnes and loftily lob-curled a magnificent shot into the very top right corner. Unstoppable.

Exeter had the ball, Town had moments.

Hop, step, jump. Hop, step jump. Butterscotch, butterscotch do a handstand and count to ten facing the wall. Come and find me! Town were chasing these wagons like squirrels in a hatbox, they were piggies in the middle. And in their eyes there's something lacking, for what they need's a darn good whacking. Get into 'em! Which team has just got off the bus?

Whoops. Another Town moment, completely out of context with this exhibition of Devonian Impressionism. A haberdasheried, hackneyed thwack found Forbes and Jarman twiddling and fiddling the ball to Proudlock, a dozen yards out The Troyboy's right leg extended and diverted danger. The corner dropped amid minor panic. Forbes spun and swiped goalwards: the ball dimpled off a blue knee and blue chest, dropping in the middle of the area and being flagellated away.

Just a moment of something. In the meantime Exeter carried on embarrassing our uncouth artisans with their style and sophistication. Apart from Tully: he was funny. He kept treading the ball out for a corner like a latter-day Norman Wisdom. What kind of fool is he Mr Tisdale?

Ah, Proudlock kept treading on the ball when almost freed. Mere moments, and moments lost. Kalala crossed, Jarman ran the wrong way. Forbes, as moody as a shark on heat, ran around and around and around with kung fu leaps. And then he was booked.

Who is that cat in Clarke's shoes? It ain't Re-Newell's Clarke, but the ghost of Jamie's past sitting in a cave, reading Robert Graves. Do they do Robert Graves dolls now? I don't want one if they do. I bet they don't sell them in Sandringham. Goodbye to all that nonsense; what's going off out there?

Exeter, Exeter endlessly spry, impeccably dry, you're making us cry. But has Barnes touched the ball? They shot long, they shot high, they shot wide. Nothing near, just seductive movement and an insatiable desire to keep the ball. They feared re-possession. Basham and Stewart, old heads with young legs around. Can't you see, it's the chemistry, you really must agree: together they are beautiful. Ooh, nice moves, sirs. One touch, one flick, one shot. Over. That's them over with.

As the half yawned to an end Bennett headed a free kick safely over from unsafely near. What we need is a bit of bambooji: we need to retrace the trajectory of enlightenment, the crossing of the sun, master Re-Newell

Can someone please bang the gong so we can meditate to accumulate.

Miskick + miskick + nutmeg = the secret of Grimsby happiness.

In the foggy mist of mysterious added time Town finally strung some passes together with a quick one-touch break snaking up and across the pitch. A cross diverted, possession retained and a strange inner calm descended upon Jamie Clarke. He hoiked a cross into the area, which was headed down, vaguely goalwards. Proudlock spun a dozen yards out and scruffled the ball on. Jarman darted behind and spun to scrumble a shot through Jones' legs from eight yards out. And we had instant karma, the impending boo-fest diffused by a Town moment.

Phew, that was lucky.

Town were comprehensively outplayed up to their own penalty area. Exeter had made us look a little foolish. Sinclair and Kalala were strangely muted, being passive observers of the pretty, pretty ball juggling and weaving from the country craftsmen. Jarman was peripheral while Elliott was without pace, without stamina and without any grace. He was as much a liability as Clarke. Up front Forbes was running around a lot while Proudlock was having one of those days when he just cuts his own team into little pieces.

Occasional sparks from a flat battery, Town were dim. Jump leads anyone?

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

My head is in a spin, my feet don't touch the ground: Town ripped into them. Sinclair and Kalala stood closer to the three stooges in the centre of the Exeter midfield and Town passed the ball to each other, on the ground, with some pace. Elliott tickled Proudlock who swooshed well wide. Forbes rolled around his marker and slapped a shot into the side netting. Hang on, isn't that a goal in your book, young Master Atwell? There's no consistency these days.

A corner, a cross, in and out, Town buzzing like a buzzy thing. A bee! Exeter were politely pinned to the wall and asked to accommodate our wishes. And don't you know it worked. Barnes tapped a free kick to Widdowson out on the left touchline near the halfway line. The cross was dimpled flatly towards the lumbering giants. A Grecian ducked, allowing the ball to zoom towards old Edwards. Jarman scampily nicked in front of the old lag and, from eight yards out in the centre, whacked the ball where the Tangoman keeper had been. Jarman ran off in the shadow of the Frozen Beer Stand, pursued by his grateful team-mates. And was booked. Learn to curb your enthusiasm, lad - we can't have celebrations and jubilations. That's not what the game's all about. Tut-tut. For the amateur statisticians among you, the electric clock stood at 54 minutes when love came to Town.

What more? Exeter carried on passing, Town carried on growling at close quarters. The Devon dumplings didn't approach Barnes, apart from a humpy clearance which bounced behind Heywood and Bennett. Barnes decided to creep out of his area, and one could say that the Pontoon's knees were shakin' baby, the heart it beat like a drum. I just did. Heywood avoided Barnes and all was forgiven.

And still Town pressed. Mighty Joe Widdowson exchanged passes and fleagled down the left, along the bye-line and crossed in to the centre. Kalalalala arrived in the 3X, pressed the red button and stumbled off the bus as an Iscaman tried to get on. Kalalala scrumped a shot in to the ground, it bounded up and over Jones and hit the bar. And carried on upward, landed back on the bar, bounced back up and down as Kalalala got up and raced towards the plunging satellite. The linesman's flag went up and heads scratched as Agent Orange placed the ball down for a seeming goal kick.

The referee ran over to the touchline and Newell ran off down the tunnel. Another red card for Mr Re-Newell. Ah, the truth hurts sometimes.

On the hour Sinclair hobbled off to be replaced by Boshell. It was all going swimmingly.

Flim-flam-flong in yellow bean sauce. In a trice they were free. A Town attack ended with a whimper and Exeter broke swiftly and surely. Up the centre, down the left, over to the right, back to the left, into Stewart, stabbed to Barnes. Just like that. Each player took a single touch in a smooth sweep upfield, a magnificent example of team play. Let down only by the final scuff by Stewart, of all people, when unmarked a dozen yards out. That was really quite admirable football.

Shall we concentrate on ourselves? Exeter weren't dictating now: they were typing our words.

Proudlock was scythed down by Edwards about 25 yards out on the right after what could almost be called a passing move. A ghost wall shimmered in front of Elliott, who carved a swivelling, drifting skidder towards the bottom left post. Jones slowly ached down and, at the very last, poked out a hand and clawed it aside for a corner. The corner came to naught but half a page of scribbled line.

With that, and with about 20 minutes left, Bore replaced the flagging Forbes, who received an ovation for his willingness to run and run to catch up with the sinking sun. On this showing a useful addition with a couple of tricks. Of course it was a straight swap. How could it be anything but with Bore?

And Town carried on pressing those flared West Country trousers. Boshell coiled a corner in to the near post and Jones just managed to punch it off Proudlock's head a yard from the line. Boshell coiled the next corner into the near post, where it twanged off either the post or a desperate foot and back out to the corner of the penalty area. The Bosh ambled up and chipped to the far post... and the referee gave a free kick to Exeter from where Bosh had retrieved. Heads were scratched all over Lincolnshire. They often are - too many cows.

It's still Town you know. Without having done much, things happened, now and again, with the ball generally being up the Osmond end without much of a paddle. Another corner was cleared and Jarman, lurking in a Scholesian position, waited for the ball to drop and volleyed a shot through the thick hedge of winter vegetables, with it shuffling across the face of goal and yard or two wide.

And then they started to attack, which wasn't nice of them. Town started to gag on the Grecian wrestling and rolling. They started to pass and pass and recreate their first-half dominance. Jarman superbly thighed and volleyed away a cross as it dropped onto him, and then, with just over ten minutes left, he was off, replaced by Llewellyn. Bore moved to right wing and Llewellyn hung around behind Proudlock. Within a minute... well... you know.

He just hit it and it went in. Boom! Thwacked flat and arrowed straight in to the right corner. Substitute Harley had equalised and Barnes and Clarke had a stand-up row. The ball had dropped 20 yards out and several Town players were around, but Harley just hit it. Nothing scientific about it, there was no art, the man just kicked it hard. Sometimes these things happen.

Town disintegrated for five minutes. The Grecians whipped out a can of Double Diamond and worked their wonders again as Llewellyn managed to get himself stuck between thrower and receiver. From about a dozen yards out, on their left, Basham poked a volley straight at Barnes, who slapped it towards the penalty spot. Bennett sprinkled some fairy dust upon this scene of minor mayhem and calamity was replaced by calm.

We'd settle for this now, wouldn't we?

Too right! But, ooh, maybe... Proudlock and Llewellyn played football on the halfway line and Lulu was freed down the right. He swished towards the penalty area, looked up and carefully dinked a cross in the centre. Elliott, unmarked and near the penalty spot, leant back and smurfed a volley into the ground. Jones swayed to his right and fell upon the ball.

There's nothing else to say. It ended and we all went home happy ever after.

Could have been worse, could have been better. Overall Exeter were the more stylish, composed and complete team, but when the sun arose Town wobbled their board. Town were a wheezing, sneezing calliope, with only Forbes seemingly born to run. It all reinforced what we know already: we can now put out an excellent XI, but there is not much depth. An injury or two and we start to grind the gears.

We're going slowly up the hill, not sliding down.